While talking with fellow employees today (one of whom is born and raised here, and one who is from New Jersey) and tossing around ideas, the question was asked that I have been asked many a time over.

"Why not take your ideas down to the City Council and see what they think?"

I generally laugh such an idea off (having evil designs of my own, of course), but tonight while in the process of watching "Looking Back" on WCOX, specifically the section on Design '79, and the recent design sit-in held at the City Market building - I finally came up with a solid answer to the above question.

Why worry about the City Council, they are just servants of the public (or used to be). The only way to truly affect change anywhere is to make sense to the people. Talk to the people, listen to the people - and from there, anything is possible. I think thats a lesson forgotten often these days, when City Council members have tarnished pasts that are hidden, yet still affect them to this day. And no, I'm not talking about Bev.

If the citizens speak with one (or as close to one as possible) voice, the city will have no choice but to listen. It is a desire, a determination, and a drive to constantly improve your lot in life - it's human. Some have forgotten that as well. But that desire can be reawakened, that drive refueled. In the simple hope and wish that the life of their child will be better than the one they had. But too many people believe that kind of life is unattainable here in Roanoke, and they impress this (knowingly or not) upon the child.

And then the city is left in the state it is currently in - a fearless City Council, unafraid as there are no "strong contenders" who are younger, smarter, faster, and better than they are. A struggle to attract and retain the local college students who are from outside the area, a oxymoron-ish housing situation, where perfectly good homes are left to ruin by landlords and tenants alike, yet the good homes are priced out of the range of most young people (and if you think it's bad, try the suburbs of New York City - average salary for someone just out of school is only enough to scrape by on rent and utilities - not to mention nice things like food, gas, and perhaps some form of amusement - and people wonder why kids never move out...).

Some of the best views in Roanoke, and the most centrally located housing in what should be considered the most desirable location for a businessperson is valued at less than $30,000 (* according to city GIS and tax assessment information). This is not only a shock, but a virtual disgrace. Most business owners do not like staying miles or minutes away from the business - they want to be there in seconds. But instead - due to it's proximity to downtown, it is considered a virtual ghetto - undesirable and unwanted.

Why would I waste my voice attempting to convince politicians that, in the interests of the city and it's citizens, it is imperative that those properties be valued - empty lots that high above the downtown area could mean many different opportunities. New upscale hotel, new restaurant similar to Carlos (with its overreaching view), new park (or should I just not bring up the Woodland Park debacle).. the possibilities are endless, should one want to see them.

And with an entrenched City Council, the argument needs to be brought to the people, to the public, to the taxpayers... Those who still believe that we have a representative government, and those who want to believe.

So no, there is no reason for me to bring my ideas to the City on a silver platter. There is more to be gained by speaking to the people, the business owners, and those who work every day and rest every night. To paraphrase W.E. O'Shaughnessy (via Willy Wonka) "They are the music makers, and they are the dreamers of the dream."

Sometimes the word can make the dream real, and sometimes the dream itself provides the word.

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